Actor Urmila Matondkar joined the Congress in the presence of the party President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday. She said that freedom of expression is very important in a democracy, especially to an artist like her, and that there are many questions about how this freedom can be protected.

“In a time like this, many Indians have raised questions about what is happening in India,” Matondkar told the gathering at her induction ceremony at the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi.

The actor said she is from a family that has imbibed the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhai Patel and inculcated social awareness in her. “I am here because I believe in the ideology of the Congress and what the party stands for,” she said. “I have never done anything half-heartedly in my life, nor is this decision one of those and I want to say that I am here to stay.”

Matondkar became a child star with the 1983 Hindi film Masoom and is best known for her role in the film Rangeela. “I know when filmstars enter politics, they are expected to pull in voters because of their glamour,” she said. “I would request you to keep such thoughts away when it comes to me.”

Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora said he has known the actor for years. “She is not just one of India’s finest artistes, but someone who is extremely opinionated on issues affecting our society and someone taking the political step for the long run to serve the country through the Congress party,” Deora said.

She thanked Gandhi, Congress leaders and her supporters for encouraging her decision to join the Opposition party. Her induction into the party comes ahead of the Lok Sabha election. The polls will be held in seven phases, starting April 11 and ending May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.

Observers have speculated that she will be fielded as a candidate from Mumbai.